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Vibrant Gujarat? Official document admits failure to tackle industrial, urban pollution

By Rajiv Shah 

Even as the Gujarat government is all set to launch another edition of its high-profile Vibrant Gujarat world business meet (January 10-12), a top state document has gone out of the way to admit one of the severest issues which the state badly needs to urgently tackle: “pollution control, especially industrial and urban pollution”.
In fact, it talks of “serious problems of fire, air pollution, odour nuisance, water pollution from leachate due to legacy waste dump sites in many places in the state.”
The document, which has been released as part of the 112-page government resolution (GR), whose annexures say it all, is a guideline on what all the selected 20-odd young graduates with a mere 60% with a monthly stipend of Rs 1 lakh (which is more than the salary of state class one entry-level state official) – would need to do research on.
It admits, “There is wide gap in the generation of the sewage and its scientific disposal”, underlining, “Lack of adequate system for sewage collection in villages and small towns” is leading to “serious water pollution problems due to discharge of untreated domestic sewage into recipient bodies like rivers, natural drains, lakes, seashores or groundwater.”
At the same time, the document believes, the problem is equally huge in big cities. It says, there is “wide gap in the amount of household solid waste generated in the state as well as the amount of waste collected and disposed of scientifically”, adding, “Due to the urbanization in big cities, solid waste management requires advance planning and a lot of changes in budget provision.”
What happens because of “the use of polluted water in dry areas” and “lack of clean water” across the state, believes the document, is “diseases and other health problems” to human beings, on one hand, and adverse impact on “agriculture and animal husbandry”, on the other.
Talking of “lack of proper solid waste collection, treatment and disposal system”, the document says, the “frequent epidemics and other pollution problems” become worse because of of lack of public awareness.
Pointing towards “a lot of opposition from nearby residents/ public while selecting new sites for solid waste disposal”, the document says, there is a “need to work for economic benefit from proper collection of recyclable solid waste and compostable bio-degradable solid waste.”
Insisting on the “widespread need for low-cost sewage treatment plants”, which needs to be done after evaluating “treatment capacity with regard to domestic sewage generation in municipalities”,
the document recommends, there should be provision of “severe penalties for violation of solid waste disposal regulations and for its effective implementation.”
Pointing out that “operational problems in most sewage treatment plants needs to addressed, the it says, there is “lack of proper operation and maintenance of” existing “sewage treatment plants”, which “leads to odour nuisance in surrounding areas.” Hence, it underscores, the “establishment of appropriate and adequate systems for re-use of treated sewage is a big question.”
Coming to industrial wastewater pollution, the document states, “The industrialization in the state and presence of multiple sectors of industries leads to generation of complex and high volume of industrial wastewater”, adding, “Small scale industries lack technical and financial capabilities for operation of treatment plants. Problem and recommendation.”
However, it is not just small industries which are a problem. The document does not spare even large industries. Thus, it says, there is “lack of technologies and technical manpower in treatment plants with regard to product diversification in large industries.”
This problem, it notes, is compounded by operational and maintenance problems in common effluent treatment plants (CETPs), where there is “lack of capacity and new technologies in existing treatment plants for disposal of wastewater arising from new products in member units of CETP.”
The document continues, “Lack of reuse system of treated industrial wastewater from CETPs leads to disposal issues”, adding, “Industrial wastewater management by zero liquid discharge units as compared to other units have higher economic burden”, which is caused by “lack of skilled workers in industrial units as well as in CETPs.”
Presence of multiple sectors of industries in Gujarat leads to generation of complex, high volume of industrial wastewater
Coming to problem of plastic pollution, the document claims, “Number of plastic waste recyclers is the highest in Gujarat as compared to other states”, but adding, for enhancing “plastic waste management”, there is a need for registration of plastic “producers, importers and brand owners as per plastic waste management rules”.
Further claiming that “plastic waste from paper mills in the state is used as alternate fuel in cement mills”, it says, “New innovative technology is requires for utilization of plastic waste in other industries.” Also, there is need for proper “disposal of plastic waste generated from metropolitan, municipal and rural areas in scientific manner”, as it too “is a big issue.”
Seeking to address hazardous waste, the document says, “There is a huge generation of hazardous waste in Gujarat”, pointing out, the problem becomes particularly sharp because of “wide variation in the type of hazardous wastes due to diversity in industries”, which add to “its collection, storage, treatment, reuse and disposal.”
Insisting on the need for “new technologies for cleaner production and use of cleaner technology in industries to reduce hazardous waste generation” as also “policy” for promoting “industries for scientific reuse of hazardous waste”, the document seeks “strict implementation of waste hierarchy by industries, treatment, storage, and disposal facility (TSDF) operators and regulators.”
However, it regrets, “In spite of proper landfill site design and operation”, issues like “air pollution, water pollution or structural stability incidents from existing landfill sites” occur. Hence, what is required is “land use plan for keeping distance of hazardous waste disposal sites from human population and other environmentally sensitive locations on permanent basis. Problem and recommendation.”
Commenting on air pollution in the state, the document says, “effective implementation of state level air pollution control action plan by every stakeholder” is required. It talks of “lack of participation and proper time-bound coordination and implementation by all concerned departments of the state for ... the City Air Action Plan.”
Seeking mandate for the use of clean fuel or controlling the increasing number of vehicles, document wants “wider use of public transportation” for which “micro level planning” should be done “for air pollution control in big cities as well as industrial estates.” Also policy is required “to increase use of clean fuel in industries”, and monitoring and imposition of penalty should be done “for effective measures to prevent air pollution from building construction.”
Then, the document talks of the need for “preventive measures required to prevent accidental pollution in industries”, which requires “monitoring by authorities like the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) for proper safety measures to prevent air pollution and need to guide industries accordingly.”
Among the measures required include “green buffer zones to prevent air pollution and noise pollution” along “major roads, highways, railway lines etc.”, though regretting, there is “lack of adequate green buffer zone around industrial estates.”

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